Does your golf club have a plan?

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south

Over the last six weeks I have talked with representatives from eight different golf clubs about the state of the game and where golf clubs are heading.
What was interesting was that almost every golf club was facing the same challenges in that they wanted more members and needed to increase income generated from their facilities.
The main issues they faced was the aging demographic of the members, declining current memberships, the lack of new memberships, and the reduction of overall income coming into the club.
So what can be done about this? In my opinion, it starts by establishing your golf club’s plan for 2020. This isn’t a 10 year plan but a “now to four-year plan” because if many golf clubs don’t act aggressively now to change their direction, they could fold!
In my books, the No 1 goal of every golf club should be to have people excited to come through their gates.
This means, that members and guests should be excited to play golf, to participate in the club’s golf programmes and excited to use the clubhouse facilities for any number of golfing and non-golfing events.
A key issue is that if you cannot create an environment that someone would enjoy coming to in the first place, then why would they wish to return?
Attracting all ages from youngsters to the retirees is really important. For this reason, every golf club should have a relationship with a PGA golf professional to run their golf programmes and work with their local district sports association to co-ordinate and link with local sports programmes such as: Snag Golf, Green Prescription and Active Families.
I would also encourage all golf clubs that have land capacity to talk to some of the other local sporting facilities. For example, some of the golf clubs I have recently visited could easily incorporate two bowling greens (ideally all-weather artificial surfaces). Many bowling clubs are struggling in the same way that golf clubs are – in that their facilities and memberships are ageing.
The groups share the same demographic issues and reduction in incomes with increased costs. Why not start working together and share green-keeping equipment or staff? Could merging club memberships become a win-win for both groups?
Other concepts and sporting partnerships that I believe connect well with golf clubs includes working with their local community to establish the club as a home to a walking club, or setting up a foot golf area (soccer balls and big holes), or frisbee golf, archery areas, pétanque and croquet.
I totally appreciate that not all golf clubs will have the ability to include these areas into their golf course but it is worth exploring.
The clubhouse is often a more available resource for greater income generation. For example, is your clubhouse promoted as a venue for birthday and anniversary celebrations, wakes, quiz nights, bridge or mahjong clubs or as a host venue for Rotary, Lions or other community groups?
This can be profitable especially when there is additional income from food and beverage sales at the club. I am shocked that less than 10 percent of all golf clubhouses I visit provide any indication that they are available to be rented by the members and the community.
Yes, I know it is taken for granted that this is the case, yet promoting the fact is simple and easy in the clubhouse and also on a club’s website. This is all about positive and proactive marketing.
In closing, I urge all golf clubs to take a 360-degree evaluation approach to their club and to their facilities.
Survey your members, green fee players, local businesses and community leaders and groups in the community. You want to know the positive and the negatives about what you provide and how you are perceived.
Talk with the local sporting office (i.e.: Sport Otago) as they have already conducted sports facilities reviews and are also aware of where effective consolidation can take place.
Also take the time to talk with the team at NZ Golf (some great resources can be found on the NZ Golf website > About the game > Info for clubs).
But, above all, think about the golf club you and your members want in 2020 and start creating the pathway to achieve it now.

Sarah HeadComment